Judith Ivory writes interesting books! Her characters are complex, her
plots are unusual, her love scenes are torrid. While her last two
books, The Proposition and The Indiscretion were quite
good, in my opinion they didn’t quite match her earlier Cuevas’ books.
Untie My Heart is closer in tone and style to my favorites among
The hero is Stuart Winston Aysgarth, sixth Viscount Mount Villars. He
left England years earlier to escape his cruel and debauched father. He
is far away in Russia when he inherits his title and fortune and does
not learn of his parent’s death until months after the fact. In the
interim, his Uncle Leonard attempts to claim both the title and the
fortune. By the time Stuart arrives in England, his uncle’s
extravagance has left him with a financial mess. Indeed, his fortune is
tied up and the demands on his purse are so great that when a woman sues
him for killing her lamb, he literally does not have the £50 that the
local court awards her.
Emma Hotchkiss is the widow of a Yorkshire vicar. She is trying to
support herself by doing odd jobs around the village and raising sheep.
When the new viscount’s speeding carriage kills her only male lamb, her
hope for expanding her small flock, she seeks redress in the courts only
to have the viscount’s solicitor appeal to a higher court. Unable to
pursue the case further, Emma decides that she will take any steps
necessary to get her money.
Emma has unexpected skills to achieve her aim. She spent several years
in London where she was involved with a band of confidence men. Indeed,
her husband had been a con man of great talent until danger and tragedy
had driven him to abandon the life and take up a very different calling.
Emma devises a clever plan to get her money. But the best laid plans
can go awry, especially if the mark is both intelligent and determined.
Stuart discovers Emma’s scam and decides to take advantage of her
Stuart’s uncle had not only spent his money; he also stole valuables
from the family home. Among the missing items is a green, jeweled
statute and Stuart’s mother’s favorite earrings, both of which have
great sentimental value to the new viscount. Leonard denies having
these pieces, but his nephew knows he is lying. Stuart decides that
Emma’s unusual talents can help him recover his property. Emma is not a
willing participant, but Stuart threatens her with prison unless she cooperates.
Of course, there is more than a “business” partnership between Stuart
and Emma. From their first meeting, there is an attraction between the
two and this ignites in a most unusual fashion. But Emma wants no part
of the only kind of relationship that could exist between a vicar’s
widow and a viscount.
Both the hero and the heroine of Untie My Heart are complex and
fascinating characters. Stuart is no typical English nobleman. He has
lived for years in the mysterious east and he has imbibed the sensuality
of foreign lands. Emma had walked on the wild side during her teenage
years but has been trying to achieve respectability and stability. Both
have been wounded in the past. As the title suggests, Stuart in
particular is tied down emotionally and needs to heal.
Ivory is a wonderful prose stylist. Her writing is frequently lyrical
and her descriptive passages capture both characters and settings. The
love scenes are highly sensual but they also move the story forward and
provide added insight about who Stuart and Emma really are. These are
two passionate people who are liberated (or should we say “untied”) by
what they come to share.
The scam plot is most enjoyable as we watch the nasty Leonard being
drawn inexorably into the web of deceit that Emma has constructed and
falling victim to his own greed.
Untie My Heart plumbs the depths of human emotions to a degree
too infrequently found in romances. Ivory’s characters are never simple
nor are they always easy to like. But they are fascinating. I will
want to revisit Stuart’s and Emma’s unique love story and thus this book
will remain on my keeper shelf.